Man declared 'dead' for 19 years in UP revenue records now claims threat to life

Lal Bihari Mritak formed the Mritak Sangh to aid those wrongly declared dead in government records, allowing others to grab their property

Part of the poster of the 2021 film Kaagaz, based on Lal Bihari's 'life' (photo: social media)
Part of the poster of the 2021 film Kaagaz, based on Lal Bihari's 'life' (photo: social media)


It is a story of struggle that just does not seem to end.

Lal Bihari Mritak, a native of Uttar Pradesh who allegedly remained 'dead' in revenue records for 19 years until he managed to reclaim his 'living' status, claims to now be facing a threat to his life because he is helping others who have been declared dead in revenue records.

Mritak has sought a licence for the prohibited AK-47 rifle, citing a threat to his life. "I request the chief secretary to permit me to get a licence for an AK-47 rifle, as I fear for my life because of my struggle for scores of men who are living but are dead in government records," he said.

An individual cannot own a licensed AK-47 in India, as it is only a weapon meant for special forces. "I know this sophisticated gun is prohibited for the public, but it can be given to a mritak (dead person)," he added.

Lal Bihari remained officially ‘dead’ in revenue records between 1975 and 1994, and fought the bureaucracy for 19 years to prove he was alive.

Meanwhile, he suffixed ‘Mritak’ to his name and founded the Mritak Sangh to highlight the plight of people declared dead in records in connivance with government staff to usurp their property.

Mritak came to know he had been declared dead in revenue records when he applied for a bank loan. His uncle had bribed an official to register him as dead, and got the ownership of the family's ancestral land transferred to his own name.

Over the years, Lal Bihari tried various ingenious ways to expose the misappropriation in the records and attract attention to his plight. He organised his own funeral, and even applied for a widow pension for his wife. He went on to contest elections to prove he was alive. In 1994, Bihari finally managed to have his dead status annulled after a prolonged legal struggle.

A biopic on his struggle titled Kaagaz (papers) was made by the late Satish Kaushik in 2021, in which actor Pankaj Tripathi played Lal Bihari. The film, based on corruption and flaws in the system, also featured Monal Gajjar, Mita Vashisht, Amar Upadhyay and Kaushik himself.

Lal Bihari sought compensation for his struggle, but the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court dismissed his plea seeking Rs 25 crore from the government for the years he lost when he was officially ‘dead’. The bench also imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on him for wasting the court's time.

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